About this Research Topic
Naturally-occurring polymers produced by living organisms have been widely studied and employed as biomaterials for a variety of biomedical applications, including drug delivery and regenerative medicine. Natural polymers include polysaccharides and animal-derived proteins, which exhibit biochemical similarities to human extracellular matrix (ECM) components as well as other polymers in the human body and, hence, do no elicit adverse effects upon contact. Indeed, natural polymers possess ideal features to interact with the cellular environment. To date, two main challenges have been faced in the biomedical field: (1) the applicability of advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMPs) in clinics and (2) the development of in vitro models as an alternative and more predictive tool compared to animal models. Engineering advanced natural-based biopolymers holds great promise as an approach to overcome these two challenges.
Among ATMPs, cell transplantation holds great potential for ameliorating and, even in some cases, reversing diseases that are currently incurable such as several nervous (e.g. Alzheimer, Parkinson, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, etc.) and musculoskeletal (e.g. arthritis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, etc.) pathologies. However, poor cell survival and function, cell aggregation, and lack of cell integration into the host tissue limit the clinical translation of such transplantation approaches. In this context, advanced natural-based polymers can act as cell carriers by mimicking the native niche, enhancing cell survival, function and tissue integration as well as reducing the inflammatory reaction of the host microenvironment. Furthermore, natural polymers have the unique ability to impart specific cellular responses by modulating their composition, stiffness and degradation rate. So far, the development of in vitro models using natural-based polymers has enabled the precise design of ECM-like frameworks underpinning the engineering of reliable in vivo-like microenvironments that reproduce the human nervous and musculoskeletal compartments.
This Research Topic aims to collect recent findings i) in the development of advanced natural-based polymers to direct nervous and musculoskeletal cell behavior and function, ii) strategies and approaches to re-create native nervous and musculoskeletal micro-environments and iii) in vivo applications for the diagnostics and treatment of central or peripheral nervous- and musculoskeletal-associated system disorders. This Research Topic will contribute to improve knowledge of natural polymer-mediated cellular responses with the overall aim to progress towards the treatment of incurable nervous- and musculoskeletal-associated diseases.
Keywords: Biomaterials, Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products, Biomimetic Scaffolds, In Vitro Models, Diagnostics
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